Will We Ever Learn?

In Digital, Direct Mail, Marketing & Ministry, Messaging by Craig Torstenbo

Once upon a time, back when I was a naïve young copywriter, I didn’t know what I was missing by not using the word will more often, or with greater effect.

That’s because I didn’t fully understand the power of will. It’s a secret weapon for writers who know how and when to use it.

To my shame, I wrote headlines, response forms and copy blurbs of every sort that could have been stronger.

For example, I’d say, “Your gift saves lives.” What I should have said is: “Your gift will save lives.”

(And if I’d really had my act together, I’d have added more oomph to my fundraising by capitalizing on the greater impact of a one-to-one, donor-to-recipient connection in many fundraising situations. I’d have said, “Your gift will save a life.” But that’s another discussion.)

The power of will

The power of will, of course, is that it packs a built-in promise. It points to a future, a better future. And for we who fundraise, it helps us promise donors an outcome they badly want to make happen with their gift, one they will — will! — feel good about.

See how I did that? Genius!

Please note that I wasn’t completely insane. I knew, for example, to run, not walk, away from flabby copy built around the word can — as in: “Your gift can save a life.”

The essence of donor-focused fundraising

As fundraisers, our job is to promise a concrete, beneficial, transformative result. And because donors mostly care about their personal charitable giving goals, rather than ours, we should write with their interests in mind.

That’s the essence of donor-focused fundraising.

And since we humans operate on emotion (no matter what we tell ourselves), it’s essential that we wrap all that accomplishment up in the warm feeling of meaning and fulfillment.

We offer all that in exchange for the donor’s gift. And will helps make it happen.

By the way, don’t be afraid to use will in a contraction . . . as in, You’ll save a life. Contractions are conversational. They make your writing more friendly and personal — the way most people talk.

Occasionally, I slip back into old, bad habits and forget my friend will. All I can do is ask those who really care about me to point out whenever I lose my willpower. Hopefully, an intervention won’t be necessary.

If you write fundraising — or work with those who do — take a look at your recent offer, headline, appeal letter, reply form and online donate page copy. Are you using will often and in the best way to promise outcomes you know your partners want to be part of?

Give it a try. Your fundraising WILL have greater impact.